Do bad starts to a season mean a terrible season? The facts.

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal don’t lose opening games of the season to lowly opposition very often.  In fact I’ve only found five examples in the last 20 years.  However I think we should also note 2012/13 where we opened with two goalless draws which thus gives us six poor openings to Premier League seasons.

Here is the table showing those opening games and the position of the club at the end of the season.

Date Match Result Score Final pos
09 Aug 2015 Arsenal v West Ham United L 0-2 2nd
17 Aug 2013 Arsenal v Aston Villa L 1-3 4th (FA Cup won)
18 Aug 2012 Arsenal v Sunderland D 0-0 4th
26 Aug 2012 Stoke City v Arsenal D 0-0
19 Aug 2000 Sunderland v Arsenal L 1-0 2nd (FA Cup R-U)
14 Aug 1993 Arsenal v Coventry City L 0-3 4th (CWC won)
15 Aug 1992 Arsenal v Norwich City L 2-4 10th (Cup Double)

So before this weekend Arsenal have had bad starts in the opening game on six occasions in their Premier League career.  That’s round about a third of the seasons played.

On each of those occasions, Arsenal then ended up in the top four except in 1992/3, when Arsenal were a little distracted by Cup matches and in fact, won the League Cup and the FA Cup in what at the time was a unique cup double.

And yet none of the media who are revelling in the fact that Arsenal lost to Brentford, are actually mentioning this at all.  Instead they are talking about Arsenal needing to change much of the team, and possibly the manager, and as ever they seem to be carrying quite a few supporters with them.

What’s more only in 1992/3 did Arsenal finish outside the top four having lost the first match of the season to a club we might call (at the time, if not now) “lowly”.  And that was the year of the cup double.

And yet despite this, some fans and all the media are talking about the club being in an appalling state.  There are calls for the manager to go and for a substantial number of players to be moved on with new players moving in.

Unfortunately for the media, not only does a poor result in the opening game of the season generally means Arsenal will do quite well, it also means Arsenal will quite possibly win something.  In four of the seven seasons with a bad opening game Arsenal have indeed won something – and indeed in one of those seasons, Arsenal won two cups in what was a unique double.

Now in the past when there has been such outcries Arsenal would stand up against the press and call them out for their ill-considered gibberish, but unfortunately that no longer happens.  It did happen all the way from the days of Henry Norris when he would regularly rail against both corrupt clubs (as when he called out Liverpool for match fixing) and the media for misreporting, through to the days of George Graham, where the club directors would on occasion use the programme to denounce the media.

But now, that idea of fighting back seems to have gone.

Also missing is the thought that on occasion things might not work out in the first couple of games but can then really come good.  In 2018/9 for example we lost the first two games to Chelsea and Manchester City, and then went on a run of 22 league and cup games unbeaten.   That took us back to equal on points with Chelsea who were in fourth, behind them only on goal difference.

Unfortunately, the media feel safe for the moment.  Having denied the existence of Arsenal’s great run last season, and having decided that the change of tactics last time around simply didn’t happen, they feel vindicated.  Now, knowing how easy it is to turn some Arsenal supporters against the team and the manager, they have renewed their attack on the team and its manager for all they are worth.  And of course some supporters will always follow the media’s lead.

Just as few other outlets comment on how disastrous a constant change of management can be, and how long it can take for players to settle into a new club, the media will encourage those without a head for figures to attack the club constantly.  Quite possibly they will force Mr Arteta out, and then we will have yet another managerial change and yet another turn around of the playing staff and tactics.

And if they get that, the media will continue with the ploy year after year.

4 Replies to “Do bad starts to a season mean a terrible season? The facts.”

  1. Take your rose tinted glasses off, silly stats, we are miles behind the teams who finished above us last season..

  2. Thanks for this work of reporting. A bad start in the league doesn’t necessarily mean doom and historically speaking, there have been occasions where a team has started badly and went on to win the league. Man city didn’t exactly start well in the first 3 games last season (won the first but lost 2-5 at home to Leicester); neither did Man United, who actually lost their first game 3-1 to Palace, topping that with that 1-6 loss at Old Trafford, in game week 3 of the 2020/21 season. City won the league and United were second.

    Not saying we should not look to improve in certain areas and recruiting where necessary; just admonishing our fans to stay calm and not get carried away with all the media doom and gloom postulations. This may be the kick up the ass the players and management need.

  3. This is Kroenke’s Arsenal. Arteta is his manager and these are the players his money bought. The buck stops with the owner.

    If you think this is bad, just wait till we lose to Chelsea & ManC! How will we all spin it if we have zero points from first 3 games?

    Kroenke Out.

  4. I think your point would be improved a little if you explained why these are silly stats. However you might be helped a little by the forthcoming articles today

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